Osaka gears up for return

December 30, 2023 7:22 am

Naomi Osaka [Source: Reuters]

Naomi Osaka said motherhood had given her a new outlook and the former world number one hoped to inspire her daughter Shai when she returned to the WTA tour at the Brisbane International that begins on Sunday.

The four-times Grand Slam champion last competed in a WTA tournament at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in late September 2022 and gave birth to her daughter in July this year, before announcing her highly-anticipated comeback four months later.

“Being a mum has changed my life a lot. I think it changed my perspective on a lot of things,” Osaka said on Friday during a visit to Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

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“Giving birth was one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through. It’s definitely made me feel like physically I can handle a lot.

“I want to show Shai that she’s capable of everything, so that’s one of my main purposes and main reasons why I want to be back out here.”

Osaka begins her final preparations for the Jan. 14-28 Australian Open – which she won in 2019 and 2021 – by competing in a tournament where she has reached the semi-finals twice.

The Japanese player tempered expectations about her title prospects in Brisbane.

“I’ve given myself the biggest chance to do well, but at the same time, I haven’t had any match play,” Osaka said.

“I’m just embracing the fact that it’s my first tournament in a very long time. I’m just trying to have fun and do well at the same time.”